Public lecture by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Luwellyn Landers, at the Pontifica Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, Dominican Republic, 03 November 2015

Vice Chancellor of the University
University Management and Staff
Student Representatives
Distinguished guests 
Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen

I am pleased by your attendance of this Public Lecture which seeks to reflect on South Africa’s foreign policy engagements. We have decided to base our interaction on an overview of South Africa’s foreign policy, its origins and manifestation.

South Africa’s foreign policy orientation

Let me begin by giving a broader foreign policy orientation. In this way we should be able to reflect on its evolution, principles and key objectives. I would like to state from the onset that we share a common history of colonialism with the Dominican Republic.

This is the same historical tragedy we share with many countries on the African continent and in the global South. We had to wage a struggle which was supported by the people and leadership of the African continent, the global South and peace loving people of the entire world. Other African countries gained independence before us and likewise they supported our cause.

Our liberation movements launched the struggle for liberation from different countries across the globe and were hosted in various countries in the global South. These countries risked destabilisation and aggression by apartheid South Africa, particularly our neighbouring states referred to as Front Line States which hosted the African National Congress (ANC) and other liberation movements.

Our forebears always believed in Pan Africanism and its values which continued to inspire them until and after independence was attained. I therefore underscore that South Africa is an African country which emerged from a painful history of colonialism and apartheid.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our struggle for democracy is well documented. It is however important to underscore the fact that upon attainment of democracy in 1994 we undertook to reverse and undo the damage of apartheid. On the foreign policy front, it became imperative that we reverse the impact of the apartheid regime’s destabilisation policy in the Southern African region. This undertaking was set out in our Reconstruction and Development Policy which stated:

“in the long run, sustainable reconstruction in South Africa requires sustainable reconstruction and development in Southern Africa as a whole”.

It is against this background that democratic South Africa’s foreign policy is predicated on the spirit of good neighbourliness and compassion. We undertook to spare no energy in working towards regional stability and development through co-operation with our neighbours.

Ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa’s Pan Africanist foreign policy orientation is not just based on the country’s geographical location. It is firmly rooted in our African identity and values of Ubuntu (compassion). It is against this background that democratic South Africa prioritises the entrenchment of peace, security and enhanced socio-economic development of the region and the continent.

In the same vein, we are cognisant of our historical commonalities and continued solidarity with the global South, hence our commitment to build strong relations with countries such as the Dominican Republic. Our foreign policy approach seeks to build on these foundations to strengthen relations with countries of the South and other peace loving people of the world.

Our reconciliatory transition from apartheid to democracy enjoins us to advocate and actively pursue peaceful resolutions to international disputes. We have also committed ourselves to co-operatively work with countries of the North to advance our domestic priorities, the African agenda and the agenda of the global South.

All this could be effectively achieved within a global system which is responsive to our needs and aspirations. We have therefore continued to advocate together with the Dominican Republic and the entire global South for the reform of the global system of governance. 

In short we work towards: “Creating a Better South Africa and Contributing to a Better and Safer Africa in a Better World”.

I indulge you in this background so that you appreciate what our foreign policy outlook, principles and objectives are based on.

The evolution of South Africa’s Foreign policy

After a lengthy international isolation, democratic South Africa had to make conscious decisions and choices in order to take its rightful position in Africa and the world at large. We had to consider balancing our immediate national priorities and the need to move from a pariah state to a responsible global citizen.

Whilst we were implementing our peaceful transformation agenda, the world was also changing. There was a global shift from a bi-polar to a uni-polar world dominated by the United States. Simply put, South Africa’s foreign policy evolved within the context of a changing international environment.

Ladies and gentlemen

The ANC made an assessment of this situation and developed a document titled “Foreign Policy Perspective”. The rapid changing international environment was summed up in the foreign policy perspective as follows:

“Our emergence as a democratic country in the decade of the 20th century has thrust us into a fundamentally transformed world”.

In essence we took into cognisance the emergence of new political and economically influential powers such as China, India and Brazil, whilst acknowledging the inevitable re-emergence of Russia.

South Africa’s foreign policy principles

I have demonstrated in part the complex nature of our foreign policy, which encompasses a combination of domestic policy priorities, strategies and objectives.

Allow me to briefly unpack principles upon which our foreign policy pillars rest:

  • Promotion and protection of human rights is the thrust of our foreign policy and these rights include political, economic, social and environmental rights;

  • Promotion of democracy is an important impetus to finding lasting solutions to the problems of humankind;

  • Justice and respect for international law should guide the conduct of international actors in the purview of international relations;

  • Peace is the goal for which all strive, and shall utilise internationally agreed and nonviolent mechanisms to pursue;

  • The African continent should be central to South Africa’s foreign policy choices; and

  • Economic development should be pursued through regional and international economic cooperation in a just and interdependent world.

Having unpacked these inherent principles, I would like to reflect on some of the strategic pillars of our foreign policy.

Africa agenda

The centrality of Africa in our foreign policy is based on our commitment to work towards the realisation of a vision of a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa. This commitment is an expression of our Pan Africanist foreign policy orientation I referred to earlier. We pursue an African Agenda which is predicated on the plan to entrench democracy, peace and security in Africa, and acceleration of economic growth for the betterment of Africans.

We have continued to utilise our own experience of a peaceful transition to collaborate with fellow Africans in the pursuit of peace and stability on the continent. Some of the political processes we have facilitated include our contributions to peaceful settlements in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Southern Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Lesotho.

The African Union (AU) can only realise its mandate of working towards Africa’s political and economic integration agenda if it operates within a conducive environment. We are aware of the need to strengthen this continental body’s structures for effective implementation of its decisions and mechanisms. However, it is imperative that the people of African descent in this region and the country in particular play an active role in Africa’s development agenda. As you know, South Africa is committed to the promotion of an increased role of the African Diaspora in contributing towards peace, stability, democracy and sustainable growth and development in Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The continent’s economic blue print, which is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) remains a frame of reference for our development cooperation. NEPAD does not only mean economic cooperation with the outside world but it is also there for us to partner among ourselves as Africans on the continent and the diaspora.  

Within this context, we enter into partnerships to promote the NEPAD priority projects, particularly the bankable NEPAD projects which are implemented at various regions of the continent.  These are deliberately anchored by Regional Economic Communities which are building blocks towards Africa’s integration.

Multilateral relations

Since the dawn of democracy and our re-admission to the United Nations (UN) we have become vocal in advocating for the interests and aspirations of the African continent and the global South in the UN. We believe that an effective and collective global system of governance remains the only hope in addressing challenges we are all faced with in the world.

The continued marginalisation of developing countries, coupled with unilateral actions by global powers in pursuit of narrow national interests, has weakened the UN. The irony is that developing countries’ peace and security issues dominate the agenda of the UN. It is therefore inconceivable that in 70 years of its existence the UN remains undemocratic and unrepresentative. We need a reformed system of global governance based on collective decision-making and implementation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is for this reason that during our non-permanent memberships of the UNSC we continued to work towards respect of the regional organization’s intervention on issues affecting their regions. The commitment to provide African solutions to African problems is premised on our understanding of the inherent role of the AU as a regional organisation in pursuing the African agenda.  

In the same vein, we are concerned about the reversal of gains registered in synergising the work of the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council (UNSC) to prevent and manage conflicts in Africa. We therefore believe that this is contrary to the provisions of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter on the relationship between the UN and regional organisations.

While addressing these pertinent issues, we must continue to work towards resolving some of the immediate challenges facing humanity such as climate change. We hope that a legal binding agreement will be reached in the upcoming Paris Climate Change Conference scheduled for December 2015.

South- South Relations

We actively participate in larger formations of the global South in collaboration with the Dominican Republic. In this regard, we utilise our membership of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) to influence political decision making in other broader multilateral fora such as the UN. In the same vein our participation in the Group of 77+China is aimed at advancing the collective developmental aspirations of developing countries.

We are members of other formations comprising countries of the global South such as IBSA and BRICS. We participate in these formations to advance our national interests and the African agenda. At continental level, we are an active member of all AU Strategic Partnerships, such as the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the New Africa Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP), amongst others.

North-South cooperation

South Africa’s relations with countries of the north is predicated on our commitment to build mutual beneficial partnerships with a view to address the needs and aspirations of African people and the people of the global South. These relations take the form of both bilateral and multilateral engagements. It is our continued endeavour to leverage the opportunities presented by these relations in an effort to reduce the widening gap between the rich North and the developing South.

To complement our bilateral cooperation with countries of the North, we have prioritised further strengthening of the Strategic partnership with the European Union (EU). This strategic partnership creates a platform for us to promote Africa’s socio-economic development agenda within the framework of NEPAD.

Economic Diplomacy

Our National Development Plan (NDP) vision 2030 calls for building of a resilient economy and enjoins us to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Economic diplomacy is therefore an important component of our foreign policy through which the NDP vision and trajectory can be realised.

South Africa’s commitment to promote a fair and equitable world trade system is informed by our historical experiences and African identity. Our solidarity with the Dominical Republic enjoins us to work together and identify areas of economic cooperation which will benefit the citizens of our sister countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are confident that our resolve to deepen existing bilateral economic relations and to explore more trade and investment opportunities will contribute towards increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Most importantly, this region and the Dominican Republic has experience in sectors of economy which we have only recently started exploring.

In this regard our resolve is to utilise Operation Phakisa which uses the Big Fast Results Methodology to achieve the NDP trajectory. This methodology enjoins us to unlock our oceans’ economic potential, amongst others.

There are quite a number of thematic areas which I have discussed in brief.  However I trust that we have presented a global view of South Africa’s international relations engagements.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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